SUNDAY 23d JUNE at 8pm

Melanie Safka was born just across the river from Manhattan, in the suburb of Astoria, Long Island. The date was February 3, 1947. Her father, Fred, ran a chain of discount stores. Her mother, Polly, a former jazz singer, became Melanie's first musical influence.

"I started writing my own little songs, " recalls Melanie, "mostly imitations of what I'd hear my mother singing around the house. It wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I began to write about things I found in myself."

While still in high school, Melanie began singing in Greenwich Village coffee-houses, passing the hat for nickels and dimes. Later she landed a one night a week job performing at a Jersey Shore bar where she earned what seemed to her a staggering amount - $20 an evening.

Fresh from graduation ("They gave me a Senior A ward for Best Posture. I guess no one else wanted it."), Melanie decided to embark on an acting career. She enrolled in the American Academy in Manhattan and began the tedious show business shuffle known as "making the rounds". One day, quite by accident, she happened into the offices of a music publishing company. Her songs so impressed Peter Schekeryk, who was employed here, that he guided of her to a recording contract with Buddah Her first album, "Born To Be, " was released soon afterwards.

When Melanie turned 27 years of age, on February 3, 1974, she celebrated by giving a concert at New York's Metropolitan Opera House. She performed for more than two and a half hours and her fans responded with a wave of love and appreciation, showering her with gifts and, at the conclusion, according her a standing ovation and clamouring for still more songs. It was a special night - Melanie returning to her hometown to perform on her birthday yet the feeling in the concert hall was familiar. The atmosphere one critic has called it "an anarchic level of intimacy" was not unlike that which has been generated over the past several years in cities across America, in Europe, Japan, behind the Iron Curtain wherever Melanie has journeyed on her way to becoming an artist of internationally-acclaimed stature.

Melanie has already captured many of the industry's major honours, including three Gold Records, a pair of ASCAP awards for her song-writing, and designations by both Billboard and Cash Box as Top Female Vocalist. In 1971, UNICEF paid her a unique tribute by asking her to serve as its official spokeswoman, an honour Melanie responded to by embarking on a ten nation tour which netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for that world children's organisation.

"Born To Be " immediately established Melanie's a unique talent with seemingly unlimited potential. Critics and discerning record-buyers alike were drawn to her haunting, fragile voice, which she deployed, on material of striking originality. The record was a curious blend of many elements, among them wistfulness, humour, naivete, warmth, irony and exuberance. Melanie did Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", an A.A. Milne poem she had set to music, and even a rousing "Merry Christmas ". It wasn't your typical first album.

Her follow-up LP, entitled simply "Melanie", shed more light on Melanie the person. From the opening track, the defiant "Tuning My Guitar", to the closing tune, the plaintive "Take Me Home", it reflected a new-found maturity, even a disillusionment with her burgeoning career. The sad and funny "Any Guy", the bittersweet "Johnny Boy " and "Again", one of her most vivid evocations of loneliness, all offered new glimpses into the inner workings of her mind and spirit. The LP also contained "Beautiful People", a song, which has become something of an anthem among Melanie fans the world over, and the only one she never fails to sing during the course of a concert.

In the Summer of 1969, Melanie was invited to perform at the Woodstock Festival. Upon getting to the backstage area, she learned that she was to follow Ravi Shankar, who had just electrified the audience of several hundred thousand with a virtuoso display of sitar mastery. To make matters worse, it had begun to rain heavily. Amid prolonged shouting for still another Shankar encore, Melanie, still relatively unknown, walked out onstage. While she sang and strummed her guitar, flames began to flicker in the darkness. People were holding lit candles aloft as signs of solidarity. When Melanie completed her set, she exited to the roar of a standing ovation.

The following Spring, "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)", her celebration in song of the event, was released. It became a Top 5 single and "Candles In The Rain", the album which contained it, matched its success, going on to become an R.I.A.A. Certified Gold Record.

By this point, interest in Melanie was growing on a worldwide basis. The New Seekers' version of '"What Have They Done To My Song, Ma" introduced many new listeners to Melanie's song-writing prowess. Late in the Summer of 1970, and riding on the success of her current chart single, "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)", Melanie visited England and scored another major triumph as one of the headliners at the Isle of Wight Festival. A short time later, Buddah released "Leftover Wine", Melanie's first live album, the major portion of which was recorded at Carnegie Hall. This was followed by "The Good Book", an LP in which Melanie blended songs by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Judy Collins with some of her finest original work, including the unforgettable "Babe Rainbow" and the irrepressible "Nickel Song", both of which have become staples of her repertory.

At this time, Melanie and her husband, Peter Schekeryk, formed their own company, Neighborhood Records. The label's first release was "Brand New Key" which became a number one single amassing total sales of more than 3 million copies and easily gaining for Melanie her first Gold Single. More Gold was on the way in the form of "Gather Me", an album which was hailed by critics as Melanie's most mature and fully realised work to date. In terms of popular response, "Gather Me" was her pivotal album and in terms of honesty and emotional depth, it was most definitely a supreme achievement. The album contained such Melanie classics as "Little Bit Of Me", "Steppin'," "Some Say (I Got Devil)" and "Centre Of The Circle", in addition to "Brand New Key" and its follow-up single, "Ring The Living Bell", which became another Top 20 hit.

During 1972, Melanie travelled abroad to give concerts throughout Europe and Japan. Under the aegis of UNICEF, she performed in Germany, Austria, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, England and Canada. One of the high points of this tour was her SRO appearance at London's Royal Albert Hall. Her first visit to Japan was marked by enthusiastic receptions at concerts in Tokyo, Sapporo and Osaka.

In the Fall of that year, Neighborhood released "Stoneground Words", a collection of nine Melanie compositions plus a beautifully heartfelt version of Pete Seeger's "My Rainbow Race". The album marked another step forward for Melanie.

While thematically it was most closely allied to "Gather Me", it seemed to signal a more pronounced point of view, whether the mood were one of light heartedness or sober reflection. The delicate and thoughtful love song, "Together Alone", the hopeful "Do You Believe " and the torchy "Here I Am " (which was dedicated to Polly Safka) were only three of the excellent new songs to be found here.

Melanie's 26th birthday was celebrated at Carnegie Hall and preserved in a two-record set, "Melanie At Carnegie Hall", which was released in April 1973. Melanie spent the summer months of that year enjoying some time off from the rigours of touring, while awaiting the arrival of her first child.

On October 3, she gave birth to a seven pound, seven ounce baby girl, which she and Peter named Leilah after a dark-haired princess of Persian legend.

Early in 1974, Neighborhood released "Madrugada", which featured six Melanie compositions along with her interpretations of songs by Jagger and Richards, Woody Guthrie, Jim Croce and Randy Newman. Meanwhile Melanie prepared for a national tour to take place during the Spring.

A poster advertising a Melanie concert in Austria proclaimed

"Melanie Sings Her Life".

This has been Melanie's life to date.

There are many more songs in her future.


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